Local architect David Barlew's modern architectural gem on the lower brow of Signal Mountain, custom-built in the mid-80s for his personal use, commands attention, especially in an area marked by colonial and cottage design. From its perch on the mountainside, one can imagine a Hollywood movie producer standing in the windowed facade, examining the valley below.
But as alluring as the home's architectural lines are, the aesthetic is secondary to the panoramic view from the towering windows and expansive deck. "The house is secondary because of Barlew's design — it's the way most good design works; it looks effortless," says Michele Peterson, who purchased the 4,000-square-foot home last May from its previous owner, local artist Terry Cannon.
The design takes full advantage of the home's vantage point, with floor-to-ceiling windows in every room facing the brow, including the four bedrooms and mother-in-law suite, all of which have sliding doors leading out to a balcony offering views of the sunrise as well as the sunset. "Standing on the deck is an experience," Peterson says, "like a piece of art, a landscape of fall color and winter haze. Don't even get me started on spring and summer there. It's magical."
Peterson says she is attracted to unusual homes, and this is no exception. "There are so many styles of 'modern' and 'craftsman' and 'prairie' and on and on. It's as if our culture pins names for things but never understands the names still don't bring out the character of the person doing the pinning," she says. "Barlew knew experience over description is what good design is all about."
The home flows seamlessly from room to room, with tall ceilings and wide entryways offering the kind of sight lines desired in today's "open concept" craze, anchored by touches that remind the visitor of the home's actual design era.
In order to make the home last another 50 years on its mountainside perch, Peterson added structural steel, rebuilt all the decks and took steps to control erosion. She also refreshed the interior, replacing the carpeting and remodeling all the bathrooms and bedrooms, including a redesigned mother-in-law suite with full bath located on the lower level.
Interior furnishings are a blend of antiques and more modern pieces. The master bath features a large walk-in shower with stone tile, new double sinks and toilet with modern designs, and a whirlpool tub with breathtaking views of the city and Tennessee River. The kitchen was refurbished with new cabinetry in the modern style and new stainless steel appliances. The home's HVAC system was redesigned and replaced, and Peterson installed an elevator by Residential Elevator Manufacturing Inc. (REMI), the nationwide home elevator company she owns.
The large front deck boasts ample seating to take in the views — perfect for entertaining, which has been Peterson's main use for the home so far, though she may rent it out in the future. In the back, a treehouse perched among the boulders offers yet another opportunity to take advantage of the property's stunning visual assets, an experience all their own.